At price points approaching $200 and higher, you'll find bread machines with more settings and options, giving you more control over your finished product. These fancy machines include the Zojirushi Home Bakery Supreme Breadmaker BB-CEC20 (*Est. $240), which has a wide range of cycles and even allows you to enter custom cycles, rather than being confined to preprogrammed settings.
This model replaces the discontinued Zojirushi BBCC-X20, which aced reviews and got top user ratings in its day. According to a spokesperson for the manufacturer, the two machines are identical in their baking features and differ only in the BB-CEC20's updated exterior, so performance reviews of the Zojirushi BBCC-X20 are applicable to the newer model.
Experts at BreadInfo.com praise the BB-CEC20 for its many options, noting in particular its 10 total cycles (three of which are "quick"), three special recipe settings (one for meatloaf), three crust-color options and a 13-hour programmable timer. They also compliment its exterior design, as well as its solid construction. BreadMachineDigest.com's Robert Barnett bakes over 30 loaves in his BBCC-X20 (the older model), reporting that each turns out perfectly, and Mason Currey of Slate.com says it makes bread that could pass for store bought (he reviewed the older version). The Wall Street Journal editors praise the newer model's stylish appearance and quiet operation, although they do point out that mastering its dozens of features requires finesse.
The Zojirushi BB-CEC20 bread machine uses dual paddles to mix dough; editors at BreadInfo.com and Jessica Harlan, cooking equipment guide for About.com, agree that two-paddle bread machines do a better job of kneading than single-paddle machines, which can leave bits of flour and other ingredients unmixed in the corners of the bowl. (Note: ConsumerSearch is owned by About.com, but the two don't share an editorial affiliation.)
Users posting to Amazon.com have similar findings consistently noting the efficiency of the dual paddles, and most are pleased with the machine's performance. We found a small percentage of negative comments concerning inconsistent baking, hard loaves, early breakdowns and misshapen loaves. The most obvious downside is its high price; we also found excellent reviews for the Panasonic SD-YD250, which costs half as much.
A newer model, the Zojirushi Home Bakery Virtuoso Breadmaker BB-PAC20 (*Est. $280), costs about $40 more. Because the BB-PAC20 is relatively new, it doesn't receive the same number of reviews that other models garner, but it is the subject of Amazon.com reviews where it earns an average rating of 4.3 out of 5 from more than 100 users. It is similar to the BB-CEC20; the biggest difference is that it has a heating element in the lid, intended to produce a more even and darker crust.
Smaller families or singles may appreciate the Zojirushi Mini BB-HAC10 (*Est. $185), which makes just 1-pound loaves. The BB-HAC10 requires less counter space than the larger BB-CEC20 and weighs less, but otherwise operates similarly. This model receives near-perfect scores from more than 375 owners posting reviews at Amazon.com. However, it costs significantly more than other small models -- a deciding factor in excluding it from the top-rated machines.